Words and illustration by Faith Bugenhagen | @babyybug
Photo by Teddy Holcomb | @teddy_wh
Intimacy is a vulnerable activity. Physically and psychologically, you are showing another individual your full self. Uncovering what is often hidden.
Although intimacy can occur within isolated instances, between two people who hardly know each other, it still is defined by, and shared between two or more individuals. It is not an act engaged in alone, and a level of comfortability must be present. With this vulnerability, intimacy clearly evokes emotions.
Whether in a monogamous relationship or not, feelings and thoughts are present. This culture of closeness comes with constraints. One I have noticed, is the conversational expectations on men discussing sex.
There is a sort of detachment, almost required, by men when it comes to intimacy. The roles of men are clearly constructed by society. Society has illustrated a world where men are expected to be emotionless, or to table the conversation of emotions, when discussing sex. This is detrimental, as it demolishes the intricacies of intimacy itself, making it one-dimensional: a mechanical act.
This issue was present within my conversation with a close friend. As a member of the baseball team, he explained how difficult it was to talk about sex in the way I was presenting the conversation with his guy friends and teammates.
“This is just strange,” he said in response to the interview. “It’s not the comfort that’s the issue, it is just easier to talk about it with girls.” His experiences with his teammates and friends were ones that lacked the explanation behind their true feelings around intimacy. He said, “I mean you don’t have to give away every detail, but…,” which made it clear to me that he wanted to have the ability to discuss intimacy with full disclosure.
Throughout the interview, his hesitation was evident word-for-word; I noticed him internally questioning what to say next. It frustrated me so much to see this internal conflict. How could someone engaging in sex, not have the ability to engage in a conversation that fully acknowledged how he felt about it, especially with those he trusted.
The problem within society creating norms around the roles of each gender in conversations about intimacy is the inherent expectations these norms create. With these expectations comes an unwillingness to engage in discussions that represent the individual’s full perspective and experience. When this disconnect is present, there is a lack of understanding the complexity of intimacy.
These roles must be reconstructed and reversed to destigmatize the idea that discussing sex emotionally as a man creates an inherent weakness. Men should be able to accurately portray their emotions in conversations they engage in, especially with those they trust around them.